Creative Action In Organisations Essay
Both informal and formal structures are important conduits for creative and innovative output, but most organisations have traditionally only valued one of these structures—the formal ones. But Ekvall (1996, p. 105) argues that sometimes, systems need to be reconfigured, as certain crucial features may have been left out of the circulating loop that a particular process required. As organisations grow, especially when they grow quickly, the links and coordination provided by a formal system alone may lag.
In the smaller organisation – the two-, three-, or four-person organisation – these kinds of contacts occur automatically. That is the very nature of such small businesses. But as the organisation grows to several members with different responsibilities and commitments, it becomes hard to get together to share information, perspectives and solve problems. Older and larger organisations may be better at implementing creation and innovative outputs, but they may lose touch with or try to suppress informal systems that allow creative and innovative ideas to emerge.
In some ways the rapidly growing organisation typical of most contemporary business nowadays is like the lanky adolescent whose progress through the day is more characterised by lurch and stumble than by the smoothness of well-greased bearings, because the
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There were identifications that the existence of informal systems, which ran alongside of, and were often more important than the official formal system. This observation is supported by organisational researchers who discovered that in order for organisations to foster effective creation and innovation, they need to ensure that formal systems do not squelch the informal systems (Sherry 2002, p. 212). Falk and Sheppard (2006, p.
122) further argue that formal structures, even when pledged to support creation and innovation, if not sensitive to the needs of these informal systems can tend to institutionalise existing behaviours and ways of doing business, stifling rather than encouraging new ideas. This paper thus critically analyses the evidence that points to the assertion that a `healthy` informal system within an organisation is important for creative and innovative output. Creative and Innovative Output According to Kuhn (1993, p. 4), creative and innovative acts consist of two basic elements.
The first element is new ways–new in that they are different from the established ways of doing things. Second, they must produce better results. Being both different and better is essential to generating creativity and innovation. Therefore, creative and innovative activities challenge established ways by being new and different and produce better results when they are evaluated in terms of established values. West (2000, p. 463) has published an article in which he reviews evidence about the conditions needed to turn creative thinking into innovative practice at work.
Although not specifically concerned with learning organizations, much of this research provides evidence for the soundness of the principles underlying them. He made a distinction between creativity, which is largely a matter of individuals generating new ideas, and innovation implementation, which is the application of those ideas by teams, organizations, and societies. Paulus and Nijstad (2003, p. 34) relates that the generation of creative and innovative activities can be directed to all levels of the means/ends hierarchy. These activities can also be directed to improve the established values.
It can therefore be surmised that creativity and innovation in employee output is essential for any business venture if it is to succeed. However, the first step in moving towards a creative, innovative organisation is diagnosis. An important part of an organisational system that needs to be assessed, as believed by Clark and McCandless (2003, p. 271), is the social system composed of formal and informal communication networks. It is here that the contention that a ‘healthy’ informal system is an effective facilitator of creative and innovative output. The Role of a ‘Healthy’ Informal System
As an assertion, creation and innovative output can be easier attained by the development and use of informal systems present in all organisations but rarely thought about consciously. Informal systems, according to Tropman (1998, p. 214), ‘are those sets of flows, exchanges and transformations that occur spontaneously’. The classic water cooler provides a good example. Individuals standing around the water cooler (or having a cup of coffee somewhere else) are exchanging information about the organisation, its problems and the things that may impede it from achieving its goals. Doyle (2002, p.
31) observed that typical managers are forever chasing people away from these sites on the grounds that they are not being paid to stand around and shoot the breeze. Actually, those people are working and, without knowing it many times, very likely in the best interests of the firm. They are engaging in information exchange in ways that are most certainly beneficial to the overall organisation in both the long and short runs. Jones (1986, p. 263) championed that institutionalised socialisation tactics (e. g. , collective, formal procedures) produce custodianship, in which new members accept traditional role expectations.
In contrast, individualised socialisation tactics (e. g. , individual, informal procedures) produce innovation, in which new members challenge traditional role expectations. In reality, as the classic water cooler example shows, informal processes based on informal human networks often offer a more adaptive approach than formal ones based on traditional notions of command and control. West (2002, p. 356) gives an example of how the principle of creative and innovative output can be used in an organization to great effect using a healthy, informal system.
He describes how Rank Zerox used this method to improve the service in their photocopier workshops. All the repair engineers were given ‘walkie talkie’ sets permanently open to receive messages. At first they tended to gossip. Then after some time they began to share problems and ideas and positive feedback loops were established. There were significant improvements in productivity because the engineers were able to self-organize and spread good practice. They did this by using their own informal network, and this was made possible by the use of their ‘walkie talkie’ communication system.
The overall process fed in fresh flows of information and ideas from a wide range of staff not usually involved in such dialogues. It was a flow that was essentially informal in nature, arising as it did from the relaxed and freewheeling approaches of the said communication system, although channelled by formal frameworks. This example showed how informal systems derived from complexity can encourage the emergence of real creativity and innovation. Further, it describes some of the new perspectives and understandings that may emerge when organisations are viewed in a nonlinear way.
An informal atmosphere establishes a group environment which is totally unthreatening and which helps everyone in the organisation to feel able to contribute freely. If, as Turnipseed (1994, p. 184) suggests, organisations are thought of as processes, then the emergence of the response dynamic and the creation of fresh webs of feedback loops added and enriched the flow of processes which are the institution. The Rank Zerox programme reflected many of the patterns which McMillan (2004, p. 140) considered necessary for successful creative and innovative initiatives which mainly included the development of an informal network.
Ricardo Semler, the Brazilian manager, created a new set of values for his company to work for they led to an experimental and challenging way of running an organisation. Thus he encouraged his company to move closer to an informal system. As a result of this system, an innovative company emerged. Gareth Morgan (quoted by Pickard 1996, p. 29) comments: ‘Innovation emerges. … You cannot create innovation by having an innovation programme’. Semler recognizes that, and what he has done is a good example of a new order emerging out of formality – none of that was planned.
The inference is that creativity and innovation are not things that one can readily bring about in a preconceived way. Rather, Misztal (2000, p. 3) affirms that it is one of the properties that may emerge from a complex range of activities characteristic of an informal system that unsettle traditional, formal norms. Conclusion Organisations are dependent on creativity and innovation to keep its competitive position, thus the need for systems that foster such attributes within the firm (Kossek and Lambert 2005, p. 177).
Consequently, as the need for trust is spreading and as cooperative networks and innovative approaches are becoming important sources of economic success, many companies try to reconcile the twin claims of creativity and innovation by reducing formal control, limiting the role of traditional monitoring systems and increasing informal engagements of employees. The introduction of a more consensual type of management techniques, changing forms of communications, encouraging creativity and innovation—are all strategies to enhance cooperation.
Employees are nowadays encouraged to enjoy and conform to a less formal work environment in order to bring about the creativity and innovation desired by the organisation. Although experimenting with ‘informality in the line of duty’ still does not seem to be the best way of expanding human potential, these attempts will not be stopped because where competitive pressures on business have increased significantly, even small improvements are seen as being of critical importance and therefore worth implementing.
Because of it and because of today’s economic and political environment there is now more than ever the need to remove social constraints that limit creativity and innovation-the relationships between employees should be re-thought in such a way as to increase the chances for innovative solutions to the organisation’s problems. WORKS CITED 1. Doyle, C 2002, Work and Organisational Psychology: An Introduction with Attitude, Psychology Press, London. 2. Ekvall, G 1996, ‘Organizational Climate for Creativity and Innovation’, European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, vol.
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